Michelle Carter’s Lawyer Says She Deserved Parole in Suicide-Text Case: No ‘Danger to Society’
Michelle Carter was denied early release from jail on Friday
The lawyer for Michelle Carter is disappointed she wasn’t released early from jail after encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself in a series of texts and phone calls.
Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 suicide of her boyfriend, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III. She asked the Massachusetts parole board to let her out seven months into her sentence, but on Friday her request was denied.
“I was certainly hopeful, given that she was 16 when she knew him then 17 [when he died], and given her age and mental health issues she was struggling with at the time,” her attorney, Joseph Cataldo, tells PEOPLE.
Cataldo adds, “She has conducted herself within the confines of her release, so I believe she was an excellent candidate for parole. By no means is she a danger to society.”
In its decision, the parole board wrote, “The [board] is troubled that Ms. Carter not only encouraged [Conrad Roy III] to take his own life, she actively prevented others from intervening in his suicide,” according to the decision which was obtained by PEOPLE. “Ms. Carter’s self-serving statements and behavior, leading up to and after his suicide, appear to be irrational and lacked sincerity.”
The decision added, “Ms. Carter needs to further address her causative factors that led to the governing offense.”
After she was convicted, she appealed, with her lawyers writing that her “words encouraging Roy’s suicide, however distasteful to this Court, were protected speech.”
Cataldo tells PEOPLE, “The board’s decision was premised on the incorrect and dangerous prior legal ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court. To that end, we have filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.”
He adds, “It’s never in society’s best interest to incarcerate anyone for their words when there was not a law in place criminalizing such speech.”
Roy was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in his pickup truck on July 13, 2014, in the parking lot of a Fairhaven Kmart.
In hundreds of texts and statements that came to light after Roy’s suicide, Carter, who was 17 when Roy died, was revealed to have pushed him to go through with the act. The judge who found her guilty cited her written admission to a friend that she told Roy to “get back in” the truck after he stepped out and shared his last-minute fears in a call to Carter before he died.
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Both teens had struggled with depression, and Roy had made previous attempts at suicide.
Although Carter’s defense acknowledged her exchanges with Roy, her attorneys argued that prosecutors had “cherry-picked” only those text messages that served their case against her, ignoring others in which Carter urged Roy toward help for his struggles.
Her defense team further argued at trial and in her appeal that Carter’s statements were covered by First Amendment free-speech protections, and that she shouldn’t be found guilty for a crime through words alone, especially when she wasn’t on the scene where Roy died.
In finding Carter guilty, Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz highlighted two revelations from Carter’s trial. In addition to her statement that she told Roy to “get back in” as he expressed a desire to abort his fatal plan, Carter initially failed to tell anyone else about it, the judge noted.
Police said Carter deliberately misled friends in the days and hours before Roy died, claiming to them that he’d gone missing at the same time the two of them were in contact.
“She did nothing,” said Moniz at Carter’s sentencing. “She did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family. Finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: ‘Get out of the truck.’”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.